• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Off-cycle elections, snatch-and-run democracy: Courtocracy, Inecracy or both?

Last Saturday, remarkable dated, 11.11.23, INEC, under Mahmood Yakubu organised off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi, (BIK) States. It is the Yakubu we all know, the one who finished N300bn+ on a technology he would not use, the one who lied to Nigerians about the BVAS et al, the one who willingly authored the electoral guidelines and bold-facedly refused to abide by those same guidelines, the one who announced the results like a thief in the night; the Independent umpire who took sides with a party and its candidate. In other climes, he would be wearing a prison uniform and other appurtenances of imprisonment. But this is Nigeria. Our people say that when the moon is at its peak, a hard-hearted thief usually becomes ashamed of his profession.

But not Yakubu! He repeated all the promises he made to us in February about transparency, integrity and optimisation of technology. Nobody believed him, except perhaps, himself. Anyway, I did not remember that the election was being held that day until I started seeing and hearing of the signs and wonders happening in those places, with each group of APCians, trying to outdo the other in the snatch-and-run elections. Using my globally acclaimed FPA method (Front Page Analysis), I will share with you the strip in the evening of 11/11/23. I will neither moralise about the weird happenings nor bet my keyboard about the 100% accuracy of these stories, but let’s go through the headlines and reports in brief.

Read also: Flaws in off-cycle elections seen as threat to democracy

‘INEC officials carrying materials for Wards11,12,13 boarded some boats in Nembe Bassambri, took photographs but were offloaded and diverted to the following locations James Japhet House( octopus) and Chief Isere House( at Sandfield) and Sylvas unfinished building and made to do the biddings of APC’. ‘Materials for Ward 4 Southern Ijaw LGA have been hijacked by unknown gunmen’. ‘ Nembe Constituency 3 materials hijacked as PDP calls for cancellation’. ‘Hon Basil Kembo, leader of PDP Ward 4 escapes death while trying to protect some sensitive materials from being hijacked by military personnel’. ‘Arrest of Lawmaker Hon A Amadi representing Mbaitoli Ikeduru Federal Constituency for use of thugs, violence and hijack of INEC materials; Materials recovered by security operatives’. ‘INEC staff abducted in Bayelsa, electoral materials lost as boat capsizes’. ‘Bayelsa: Suspected thugs invade polling units in Southern Ijaw, Sagbama, hijack materials’. ‘Another case of prefilled results sheet in PU 020, Eika/Ohizenyi, Okehi LGA of Kogi state’. ‘Uniformed security men forcefully divert electoral materials in Imo’, ‘Driver to Imo State PDP governorship candidate, Samuel Anyanwu has been attacked and shot by armed men suspected to be working for APC’ ‘Placid Njoku’s vehicle burnt beyond recognition! ‘Yahaya Bello’s loyalist and LGA chairman, thugs apprehended with ammunition, cash’ ‘INEC staff camped by Yahaya Bello write results to favour him’… ‘Kogi residents protest, INEC cancels election in LGAs as officials arrive PUs with pre-recorded result sheets’. INEC Officials caught with pre-recorded result sheets in favour of APC ‘ ‘PDP Deputy Governorship Candidate in Imo, James Oyereri shot and arrested for snatching ballot boxes at Owerre Nkowji ward’ ‘EFCC arrests 14 for vote buying in BIK states, intercepts N11.04m; ‘ICPC arrests 6 vote buyers in Imo State. ‘We will NOT and we can NOT arrest vote buyers unless authorised by electoral officials;’- Police PRO; SA Media and publicity to one of the candidates arrested with arms and ammunitions’; Chukwuma Ekomaru, SAN, led security operatives and thugs to snatch ballot papers and beat up Stanley Onyea, a Ward collation officer’; Orlu on fire as youths vow to destroy areas that are not beacons of hope; no voting in Orsu LGA of Imo state; what is happening in Ideato North is nothing but a show of force; Corper missing with BVA and election results…

Anyway, Imo continued to be a ‘beacon of Hope’ as people Hopelessly awaited renewed hope. Hope not only won the whole 27 LGAs, including areas where there were no elections, but he also garnered votes that were more than 3 times the votes of the two other contenders and even more than what the presidential candidates harvested in the last election. And the result came out early enough for him to be able to go for Thanksgiving service the day after! I know that a Thanksgiving Mass or Service is usually pre-booked. I am not saying that Hope booked his own in advance but in this era when politicians have personal Pastors and even Priests, everything is possible. Other results were announced more than 24 hours after that of Imo State, the state of Hopism!

Read also: Off-cycle polls: Violence, pre-filled results sheet, cast doubt on integrity of polls

What happened at the BIK elections was as it were on 25/2/23; it was a bold and shameless display of snatch-and-run elections, which is a prelude to snatch-and-run democracy. The actors, a good number on the payroll of the FGN were bold and shameless because as our people usually say, a boy sent on a thieving operation by his father does not do it stealthily because he knows who has his back. But beyond my people’s sayings, it has been said globally that the best definition of madness is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Those who expected something different may not be mad but something is not adding to their thinking faculties. They expected Yakubu and his gang, who conducted the wonder-full elections of February this year to offer a transparent process. And after the Supreme Cult has shown that it is a waste of effort to approach the courts on electoral matters? The strategy is ‘just announce the results…’

Other electoral contenders, who witnessed the snatch and run politic of the other day have been weeping, pretending to have been taken unawares. I am surprised that they are surprised. PDP and LP rejected the results in Kogi and Imo while I am sure that APC is mourning the outcome in Bayelsa. Dino, who has been a part of the electoral banditry over the years, suddenly became born-again, boycotted the elections(allegedly) in protest and declared that he has cocksure evidence of overvoting and result manipulation in 17 LGAs of Kogi State. ( out of 21). But he is a lawyer and the Supreme Cult has shown that it is easier for one of his flashy cars to drive at 50kmph through the cratered roads of Igbo-Ukwu than Supreme Cult to accept those evidences. After all, cases are won on the basis of the law, not facts and emotions! Muritala Ajaka, the SDP candidate in Kogi State is also wailing: ‘What am I going to court to do when the same INEC that did this is coming to court to defend what it did? They gave me assurance that the election would be transparent; they allowed me to waste my time, spend my money, and mobilise my people only for them to write the results’ Before nko? What was Ajaka expecting or is he a stranger in Nigeria? As a slave who saw others being buried alive, why and how did he think that his case would be different?

Read also: Off-cycle elections: Voter apathy, thuggery, abduction raise concerns

The wailing that I am deeply concerned about is those from the voters as they ask nobody in particular: why did we take the stress to go a-voting? Before the elections, they had dressed in their battle-gears marched to Yakubu’s office and asked him whether they should bother voting or go straight to court. They had asked through Asukwo-EB, that ‘wicked’ cartoonist of BusinessDay. After 11-11, they are still asking ‘What you is registration, card collection, queuing in the sun and rain and voting? There is another wailer, who is wailing silently: the Economy, which coughed out at least N18bn to fund the electoral banditry of 11-11! How can a bleeding economy waste its resources to fund exercises in futility? So, for the last set of wailers, the voters and the economy, I am restating my revolutionary recommendation which I came up with after painstaking research following the pains of February 25. I had recommended that all those who wish to contest any post should declare their interests and let the courts determine the winner. No cards, no votes, no stress, no campaigns, no violence and minimal costs. It is as simple as that and we remove high-neck from our lexicon, including foreign observers, situation room and NASS oversight functions. Some people have also suggested that INEC should be mandated by law to just appoint and announce the occupant of the positions. In this case, we need only the INEC Chair a laptop and his personal staff. But to ensure that the lawyers and judge are continuously in season, a hybrid option is suggested: INEC should announce 2 candidates per post and the court will declare the winner. This is a patriotic model that saves us all the money, disruptions and emotional turmoil. I suggest that the Supreme Cult be converted into a Constituent Assembly to produce the details of this revolutionary proposition within 48 hours so that it will be adopted in 2027. This is important because Wike has already declared that NOBODY would defeat BAT in 2027. Why not work from the answer instead of wasting our time and resources preparing for the next election? If you think that the time given to the Supreme Cult Judges is short, remember how LONG it took them to write the presidential appeal judgement!